The University of Colorado Boulder is one of eight institutions selected by the Federal Aviation Administration to guide the future of commercial space travel as part of the Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation established in 2010.
"This is an exciting opportunity to help shape the future of commercial space flight," said Professor David Klaus, who is the principal investigator for the CU-Boulder portion of the project.
"This industry is currently at a point in time that is somewhat analogous to the barnstorming days of early aviation,” said Klaus, who is head of the bioastronautics group in the aerospace engineering sciences department and associate director of BioServe Space Technologies, a commercial space research center. “We have tremendous potential to advance the capabilities of space travel for the generations to come.”
The center is focusing on four major research areas: space launch operations and traffic management; launch vehicle systems; commercial human space flight; and space commerce including law, insurance, policy, and regulation.
Among the commercial spaceflight projects under way at CU-Boulder is development of the Dream Chaser, a commercial spacecraft that will be used to carry astronauts to low Earth orbit. CU is working with Sierra Nevada Corp. on the project under a NASA grant. Students are evaluating cockpit design and ergonomics to determine the best placement and type of controls to be used by the crew. Klaus also is conducting “human rating” research aimed at developing a methodology for evaluating safety and operational aspects of spacecraft intended to transport crew.
Other CU faculty involved in the FAA Center include George Born, Dan Scheeres, Penina Axelrad, and Tim Fuller-Rowell.
"Commercial space flight is ready to play a greater role in the nation's space program," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. "Universities working with industry partners will fuel the research necessary to help keep us in the forefront of both technology and safety in space."
The FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation is responsible for licensing, regulating and promoting the commercial space industry. Since the office was created in 1984, the FAA has issued licenses for more than 200 launches and has licensed the operation of eight FAA-approved launch sites known as spaceports.